The career of Sylva Ashland,DC, inspired her daughter, Rose Ruth, to follow in her mother's footsteps. Ruth Ashworth matriculated at the PSC, where she met and married one of the stars of the school's baseball team, Carl S. Cleveland. The couple was married in the Palmer mansion on 19 April 1917, and B.J. gave the bride away. Their only child, Carl ("Max") Jr., was born 29 March 1918 in Webster City, Iowa, where the couple had established their first practice. Several years later Ruth, Carl and Carl's brother-in-law, Palmer alumnus Perl Griffin, established the Central College of Chiropractic in Kansas City. The school was soon renamed the Cleveland Chiropractic College (Keating, Cleveland, 1996). B.J. Palmer expressed his dissatisfaction with this new competition by sending the silhouette of a hand with one finger cut off. Sylva had no official role at the Cleveland College, but she often gave guest lectures in which she discussed her clinic cases, and she was a financial contributor to the nonprofit institution.
Dr. Ashworth advertised as a "Palmer graduate," referred students to her alma mater, and donated considerable money; an "endowed chair" in her honor is still on campus (in storage). In the years before B.J. Palmer introduced the neurocalometer (NCM, Keating, 1991), she was a frequent correspondent with him, and they discussed a wide range of professional issues. She battled during 1919-1923 against the "mixer" chiropractors of Nebraska who sought to require a lengthier curriculum for licensure than the 18-month-maximum that B.J. and the Universal Chiropractors' Association (UCA) insisted upon (Keating, Cleveland, 1992). She was an early enthusiast for the NCM as a clinical device, but was distressed by Palmer's "milking cow speech" (Cleveland, 1991), in which the Davenport guru argued that he had been nourishing the profession for years while the "mixers" drew all the milk. She gradually lost interest in the instrument.
Although Sylva may have tried to help B.J. in his unsuccessful bid for re-election as secretary of the UCA in 1926, she continued with the 20-year-old protective society and was re-elected its vice president that year. When UCA president C.H. Wadsworth, DC died in office, Sylva briefly assumed this office (Lundy, 1926), the only woman ever to serve as president of a national chiropractic membership society in the United States. As president of the Nebraska BCE, Sylva was a cofounder of the International Congress of Chiropractic Examining Boards (ICCEB), forerunner of today's Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards. Organized at the prompting of Harry Gallaher,DC, secretary of the Oklahoma BCE, the ICCEB's seminal meeting convened in 1926 at Kansas City. Dr. Ashworth was one of its original officers (see table below). She continued on its governing body after the ICCEB expanded in 1928 into the International Chiropractic Congress, with divisions for school administrators, state associations and examining boards.
| Table 1: Founding Officers and Members of the Board of Directors of the International Congress of Chiropractic Examining Boards, 1926. |
Eugene Cox,DC, North Carolina, president
Sylva maintained friendly relations with Mabel and Dave Palmer, but had clearly crossed over into the opposition camp. Grandson Carl Jr. recalled lively professional discussions during holiday gatherings of the Ashworths and Clevelands. His father had remained a strong supporter of Palmer and the Chiropractic Health Bureau (today's ICA), while Sylva became a charter member and supporter of the National Chiropractic Association (NCA). She also evolved into something other than a Palmer straight chiropractor, and dabbled in radionics (Cleveland, 1926) and the Basic technique of Hugh Logan,DC.
Ashworth's service as president of the UCA earned her an honored role in the Gavel Club, comprised of former executive officers of the NCA and its organizational predecessors, the UCA and the short-lived American Chiropractic Association of the 1920s (Keating, 1996). Her lengthy service as a chiropractor also qualified her for membership in the NCA's Pioneers Club. She was a regular attendee at the NCA's annual conventions. She won a "scientific award" from the NCA in 1937 for a report on tumors that had reportedly "sloughed-off" under adjustive care. She was also an active member of the NCA's National Council of Women Chiropractors, which named its first scholarship award after her (Ploudre, 1954).
Sylva received one of the first fellowships (her fifth) in the International College of Chiropractors, an NCA honors group established in 1938. Her membership in the Gavel Club led to her role as an incorporator of the Chiropractic Research Foundation (forerunner of today's FCER) in 1944. Although she contributed to the philanthropic organization, she was not otherwise involved with the foundation. As well, she questioned the value of spending dollars for research, and believed the foundation's efforts should instead be focused on improving basic science instruction at the chiropractic schools. Clearly, her views on chiropractic education had evolved over the years, presumably as a result of her participation in the ICCEB and its successor, the Council of State Chiropractic Examining Boards.
In her later years, Dr. Ashworth became increasingly broad-scope in her lecture topics, including weight-reduction programs (which she practiced) and obstetrical issues (e.g., Rossie, 1935). She continued to practice in Lincoln until 1954, when at age 79 a stroke paralyzed her on one side.
Sylva Ashworth spent her final years in Kansas City with her daughter Ruth. She met her maker on 6 June 1958, and Dave and B.J. Palmer served as honorary pallbearers. Obituaries in Nebraska newspapers and the chiropractic press attempted to summarize her life, her devotion to the sick and underserved, and the character she brought to raising the dignity of chiropractors and of women in general. The "Grand Old Lady of Chiropractic" (Carlisle, 1941) and matriarch of the Cleveland family of chiropractors lived her life well, and left behind a legacy of service that merits recognition.
- Ashworth SL. Newspaper clipping with annotation, 6 October 1939 (Ashworth papers, Cleveland Chiropractic College of Kansas City).
- Ashworth SL. Letter to Ruth Cleveland, 12 April 1941 (Ashworth papers, Cleveland Chiropractic College of Kansas City).
- Ashworth, Lillian B. Interview with J.C. Keating and C.S. Cleveland III, 27 August 1991a.
- Ashworth, Phillip B. Interview with J.C. Keating and C.S. Cleveland III, 27 August 1991b.
- Caine WR. Letter to J.C. Keating, 16 July 1991.
- Carlisle MC. Letter to Sylva Ashworth, 29 May 1941 (Ashworth papers, Cleveland Chiropractic College of Kansas City).
- "Chiropractic for Women" and "What Women Chiropractors Say." Davenport IA: Palmer School of Chiropractic, 1918.
- Cleveland, CS, Sr. Letter to B.J. Palmer, 3 August 1926 (Cleveland papers, Cleveland Chiropractic College of Kansas City).
- Cleveland, CS, Jr. Interview with J.C. Keating and C.S. Cleveland III, 9 June 1991 (Palmer/West archives).
- Gibbons RW. "The witnesses" in Davenport: Was Brady and Third chiropractic's "Dealey Plaza" in August, 1913? Chiropractic History 1992 (Dec);12(2):10-2.
- Gromala T. Women in chiropractic: Exploring a tradition of equity in healing. Chiropractic History 1983; 3:58-63.
- Johnson N. Geneology of the Ashworth family, unpublished (1931) (Ashworth papers, Cleveland Chiropractic College of Kansas City).
- Keating JC. Introducing the neuro-calometer: a view from the Fountain Head. Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association 1991 (Sept);35(3):165-78.
- Keating JC. The short life and enduring influence of the American Chiropractic Association, 1922-1930. Chiropractic History 1996 (June);16 (1):50-64.
- Keating JC, Cleveland CS. Sylva L. Ashworth, DC, the "grand old lady of chiropractic." Chiropractic History 1992 (Dec); 12(2):14-23.
- Keating JC, Cleveland CS. Cleveland chiropractic: The early years, 1917-1933. Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics 1996 (June);19(5):324-43.
- Lundy FG. Letter to Sylva L. Ashworth, 16 July 1926 (Ashworth papers, Cleveland Chiropractic College of Kansas City).
- Ploudre A. Women in chiropractic: A brief convention report to the NCWC. Journal of the National Chiropractic Association 1954 (Sept);24(9):36.
- Rossie JP. Letter to Sylva Ashworth, 31 August 1935 (Ashworth papers, Cleveland Chiropractic College of Kansas City).
- Schnath EJ. Ancestors of Carl Service Cleveland III,DC, 1931-1988. Kansas City MO: the author, 1988 World (newspaper), 23 June 1924 (Ashworth papers, Cleveland Chiropractic College of Kansas City).
Joseph Keating Jr.,PhD
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